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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The work of a Therapy Dog

As I walk down the long softly lit hallway, nurses, doctors and family members pass me by. A bright smile lights up their face and I hear whispers of, “Oh my God, do you see how big he is?’ and “He’s so well behaved for being so young.”
“I’d like to do that with my little one.” says Dr. Jones. “But he’s too jittery.”
“I love his long shiny black hair.” says Nurse Johnson.
“It’s so nice to have you here.” says a family member.
“But who am I?” You ask. “I am a Therapy Dog.”
A visit from a Therapy Dog means something different to each person or place we visit.
When Hospitals are visited, the Therapy Dog may help stretch out an arm that has not been moved in a long time. They may bring out a tiny sound from someone’s voice that hasn’t been heard in years or they may bring a little laughter to someone who hasn’t felt like laughing due to illness.
When we visit Nursing homes, the Therapy Dog brings a smile to the resident who hasn’t seen a dog in a long time. Therapy Dogs are always willing to listen to a person’s aches and troubles when others have failed to. They’re willing to snuggle up on a lap to make the resident feel as if they were home again. And the simple act of throwing the dog a bone, giving him a little pat on the head, or outstretching their arms to give a big hug generates an uplifting and warm feeling to the resident who receives few visitors.
During a prison visit the Therapy Dog never judges ones past and never shuns them for their crime, but sees them only as people who are in need of a little company and indulgence.
A school or preschool visit combines many different aspects. The children learn what a Therapy Dog’s job is; they learn how to treat and respect their own pets, as well as how to properly care for a pet. They are taught bite prevention by being able to recognize a dog’s body language, as well as when it is safe to approach a strange dog and what to do should they find themselves faced by a discontented dog. They can also get information on how to become a Therapy Dog handler.
A Therapy Dog has no prejudged expectations of the people they meet, there is nothing to prove of ones role in life, and there are no discriminations of differences. They have only love to give and that act in itself is reward enough.

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